My COVID-19 prediction a month later

On April 23, I made a prediction: that Georgia would not see a post-lockdown surge in COVID-19 cases. You can follow that link for my full reasoning, but the short form is that I’d seen indicators that the virus was already widespread before the lockdown ever started.

By May 12, I saw some preliminary indicators that also seemed to support my view; to wit, we did not see a decline in the rate of daily infections which one would expect if the lockdown slowed exposures.

If we were going to see a new, post-lockdown surge, I thought it would start to appear approximately two weeks later, based on a roughly 14 day incubation period. The lockdown was lifted on May 1. I waited a little more than two weeks to give the state’s data time to catch up with local reporting. How did I do?

From that, you might think that my prediction of no new uptick was a complete failure. But wait.

As of this writing, that data is useless for confirming or denying my prediction. Georgia went and made some changes.

First, after the lockdown ended the state began offering COVID-19 screening to anyone. Previously, it was only available for those displaying symptoms. Unless they can report whether post-lockdown positives were symptomatic or not, we don’t know if we’re seeing something other than what we would have if testing had always been available regardless of symptoms.

Second, and far more serious… that graph no longer reports just SARS-CoV-2 testing. It now includes post-lockdown antibody screening. That is, people who never even knew they “had” COVID-19, but had been exposed enough to develop an immune response. And since, not being sick, they don’t know what days the “cases” developed, they seem to be reporting an antibody positive on the day of the test. A person might have been exposed all the way back in January, but it’s reported as happening after the lockdown lifted.

The uptick could be asymptomatic cases we’d never have seen before, because the state wasn’t looking for asymptomatic cases before the reopening. It could be antibody positives. We don’t know how much of which.

The state now says they’ll separate viral and antibody positives and report them separately. Until that happens, my prediction remains untestable, damnit. But the deaths-per-day graph may be another proxy. As yet, that does not appear to show an uptick; the 7-day average curve still looks like a classic epidemic curve. The state also reports that COVID-19 hospitalizations are “down 34% since May 1st.”

Hopefully they’ll sort out that data soon.

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